Re: WinHelp as Training

Subject: Re: WinHelp as Training
From: "Burns, Nancy" <nburns -at- BREAULT -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 9 Mar 1998 16:53:12 -0700

In a belated response to Tim Altom's posting of 2/28 on online
Help being a task aid vs. a teaching aid or both, I agree that
users typically access Help from an application to "get over a
momentary hump" as Tim says. They need procedures.

I've only skimmed Jean Pratt's article in the current STC
Journal, but have a slightly different perspective on her
suggestion of designing online help systems from an instructional
design perspective: If we look at Help as being one of possibly
several components comprising online documentation, there's
definitely room for adding some of the other components Pratt
discusses - feedback to confirm the user's actions, access to
sub-tasks (redundant instructions), links to practice, and access
to theoretical foundations - without comprising task-oriented
Help. Online Help can include links to these components rather
than incorporating all their information. If I understand
correctly, these components are known as embedded performance
support systems (EPSS).

Nancy Burns
nburns -at- breault -dot- com

-----Original Message <clipped>-----
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Saturday, February 28, 1998 1:28 PM
Subject: WinHelp as Training

:Got my STC Journal the other day and read the article "Where is
:Instruction in Online Help Systems?" The author maintains that
:instructional design to online help files can help the user.
:It started me thinking about the argument I've had and heard
with other
:help designers over the years...should help or paper manuals be
seen as
:teaching aids, or as task assistance? Can they be both?
:I'll say at the top that I don't think they can be both, not
ideally. You
:can, of course, straddle the worlds, but it reduces the
effectiveness of
:both sides. The article's author, Jean Pratt, makes some good
:but I don't know that she's convinced me that online help should
:considered in any way to be a training aid. In my view, users
don't access
:help to learn; they access help to get over a momentary hump. I
can see
:putting a tutorial in the help file, but isolated so that it
isn't diluted.

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